California may be known throughout the U.S. as a haven for alternative energy but the state itself is struggling to meet the demand placed upon its modest hydrogen fuel infrastructure by new vehicles that run off the fuel. Infrastructure has long been one of the most daunting challenges facing the widespread adoption of hydrogen fuel. Fuel cells themselves are notoriously expensive, which makes it difficult to install such systems on a large scale. The sheer financial effort involved with making the endeavor successful has caused many to shy away from hydrogen energy as a whole.
Even in California, where hydrogen fuel stations number in the double-digits, a great deal of work must be done before the infrastructure can handle the onslaught of commercial, hydrogen-powered vehicles. The California Fuel Cell Partnership, a collection of alternative technology manufacturers, believes that the state is caught in a temporary bottleneck effect. This means that the state may have to suffer through some rough times, infrastructure-wise, before reaching the point where it can effectively support all the hydrogen-powered vehicles that will be hitting the streets.
Professor Joan Ogden of the University of California estimates that California’s current network of 60 hydrogen fuel stations will be enough to support 50,000 vehicles in 2017. Given that most major automakers plan to release their hydrogen-powered vehicles no later than 2015, California still have quite a way to go before it can truly claim to be the leading state in terms of alternative energy.